UPPER DIR: Known for its beautiful landscape and thick forests, Dir, Kohistan was once among the largest producer of vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages and peas. According to the locals, some 80,000 trucks would export potatoes to the markets of Punjab and Sindh.
But the 2010 floods wrecked havoc in the area by washing away its agriculture land and leaving thousands of farmers helpless. According to the district government, over 11,000 acres of agriculture land and 45 major irrigation channels were washed away.
Situated along the Kumrat River, Barikot, Biyar and Patrak villages were adversely affected by the floods. According to the farmers, the government has not taken any steps for rehabilitation yet.
Sarmad Ali, 70, a resident of Patrak village, told The Express Tribune, “Our houses, shops, bridges, agriculture land and irrigation channels all were destroyed. More importantly, our agriculture land and irrigation channels need to be restored because our livelihood directly depends on them.”
Once a farmer, Habibullah has been forced to become a day-labourer. He said, “I used to plough fields and earned a handsome amount before the floods. Unfortunately, the floods not only swept away the standing crops, but also washed away all my agriculture land and house.” He demanded that the government rehabilitate the agriculture land and enable him to cultivate it again.
Farmer Mohammad Nawaz, 32, has a seven-member family but has no work to do. He said, “I used to cultivate tomatoes, but since the agriculture land was washed away, I work as a day-labourer, but don’t get work regularly.”
The farmers of Biyar village lamented that they have not been assisted by government and non-government organisations in agriculture sector.
When asked about government steps for rehabilitation of the agriculture sector, Member Provincial Assembly Malik Bacha Salih said, “There is no doubt that the floods destroyed everything in this area, however, the government and NGOs have assisted every farmer with cash and commodities.” He added that the government will soon restore irrigation channels and farmers will be helped in restoration of their lands too.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2012.
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